Mountain sunrise: another tick on the bucket list

I’ve always wanted to see the sunset and sunrise from a mountain. With this in mind, almost 2 years ago, I bought John a new lightweight tent for his birthday, together with a Primus stove, titanium mugs and various other tools. Then Covid came along and we were confined to barracks.

Finally, lockdown ended and we waited for an opportunity to use the new kit. As the summer approached, we brought the camping gear out of storage and bought some packets of camping food. However, I’m a bit of a wimp and will only camp in fine weather, and the fine weather never seemed to coincide with our free weekends, so still we waited.

Then, on our last day in work before our 6-week summer break, I decided it was now or never, before our holidays commenced. We were experiencing a heatwave and I worried it might be too hot for me. Nevertheless, I texted John in work ‘Do you think we could get organised to camp under Cnicht tonight? Camping stuff is out, route is in outdoor active, whole walk is only 16k with 665 m ascent. 1 hour drive then 6k hike to camping spot. 3k to summit first thing then back downhill to finish before it’s too hot’ I was surprised when he texted back with thumbs up and big smile emojis, having expected him to say it was too last minute.

I finished work and brought the camping kit into the lounge, checking we had everything we needed, while John popped to the shops for some final supplies. We stowed everything into our large rucksacks and set off.

By 7 o’clock we’d parked at Tanygrisiau and set off up the steep track alongside a river, through old mine workings. There was nobody else around as we climbed steadily, first along rough trails, then on indistinct boggy paths, which we kept losing.

The views just got better and better and we could see for miles. I kept stopping to take photos until John pointed out we’d be putting the tent up in the dark if we didn’t get a move on! We finally arrived at our camping spot on Llyn yr Adar.

We set up the tent… a little tricky because it was a while since we’d tested it in the garden… then John got the stove going and cooked dinner, while I took more photos. The packet curry was surprisingly enjoyable, which is more than can be said for the puddings, which had an odd texture. We won’t be having them again! A couple of cans of beer each (alcohol free for me) and we realised it was already after 11 and time for bed.

We snuggled down in our sleeping bags. I was warm and cosy but struggled to sleep, probably because I was excited to be ticking something off my bucket list… rather like a small child on an adventure!

I did eventually drop off but woke 2 hours later needing the loo. I put my flip flops on, unzipped the tent and crawled out, trying to avoid the goose poo that surrounded the tent. The stars were absolutely stunning, and reflected in the calm, still lake. I haven’t seen stars like that since we were in Tasmania, staying in a bush hut. Unfortunately. I couldn’t photograph them because I didn’t have a tripod. John wouldn’t have appreciated that anyway. As it was, he complained about me tossing and turning, especially when I woke him up because I’d heard a strange noise. ‘What do you think it is? An axe murderer? Up here? It’s just the birds!’

At about 4 o’clock, I gave up trying to sleep, pulled some clothes on and got up. I climbed to the top of a rocky knoll where I had a phone signal, posted some photos on Facebook and checked my emails… well there was nothing else to do! Shortly afterwards, I heard John calling my name as he climbed the path towards me. ‘Shall we set off for the top? We might make it for sunrise.’

I changed into clothes more suitable for the ascent, grabbed my camera and a snack, and we were off. The path was straightforward and relatively easy. It gradually got lighter and the views opened out as we climbed towards the peak of Cnicht. ‘I think we’ll make it’, John said.

He was right. We reached the summit with time to spare and ate our cereal bars before the sun peaked over the horizon, lighting up the sky. The view was stunning in every direction, with Snowdon one way, and the Lleyn Peninsula in the other. And it was great having the whole mountain to ourselves. We didn’t see anyone else during our trip, apart from 2 other campers further round the lake. I assume everyone else was in the honeypots, such as Snowdon and the Glyders.

Having taken dozens of photos, we set off back down to our camping spot. I packed my kit while John made some hot chocolate, then he packed his kit while I washed up and cleaned my teeth. We then took the tent down, rolled it up and packed it away and set off back downhill, leaving no trace apart from some flattened grass.

We began by retracing our steps back down to Rhosydd Quarry. Once there, we explored the old mine workings, then climbed a steep incline… tough with our heavy rucksacks now it was getting hot.

We came across a tunnel, which we couldn’t resist walking through, although it was rather low for John with his huge pack! We expected the tunnel to rejoin our path but it came out on a grassy ledge with a steep drop to an open cast mine far below us, forcing us to turn and pass back through it again.

By now, it wasn’t far back to the car. I thought it wouldn’t take long, but I was very wrong! We ended up on a path down a near vertical hillside. Well… I say a path… and there was one marked on the map, and John’s GPS indicated that we were on it… but I couldn’t see it! There were rocks and thick scratchy heather everywhere and my feet kept disappearing into holes. I thought I was going to twist my ankle or fall and roll off a cliff… yes, my drama queen side emerged!

I had a tantrum and burst into tears. John was trying to help but lost patience with me. ‘Do you want to go back up or carry on down? You choose’, he shouted. ‘I just want to go home! It’s too hot, I feel awful and I’m scared!’ I sobbed as I rejected all his suggestions. To be fair, we were in the full sun now and it was very hot, and I don’t cope well with the heat. John offered to carry both packs at once, which I wouldn’t agree too. The last thing I needed now was for him to fall and hurt himself! In the end he took one pack down each section at at time before returning back uphill for the other as I picked my way slowly down the hillside to the track far below.

Finally the terrain got easier and we reached the track. From here, I was pleased to see our red car in the distance. I took my pack from John and we trudged the last section, sweltering in the heat. Just before the car park, there was a waterfall and I was delighted to see a pool in front of it.

It wasn’t big or deep enough to swim in but I stripped down to my bra top and knickers and plunged in. The cold water was exactly what I needed and I was ecstatic as I sat in it, eating my cheese butty, the drama of the previous hour all but forgotten! What an adventure! Another item ticked off the bucket list. Our Cnicht wild camping trip certainly delivered all I’d hoped for, and a little that I hadn’t!

6 thoughts on “Mountain sunrise: another tick on the bucket list

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  1. Great adventure, great photos Louisa it’s been a long time since I’ve been on Cnicht, I’ve ascended it via two different routes one from Croeso and the other from the layby for the start of the Watkin path. Your assent sounds a more interesting path.
    Regards Richard

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